Sheriff Lee Baca accepting the award for the 2013 Sheriff of the Year from the National Sheriffs’ Association on June 23, 2013. Photo courtesy of LASD
Sheriff Lee Baca accepting the award for the 2013 Sheriff of the Year from the National Sheriffs’ Association on June 23, 2013. Photo courtesy of LASD

An ex-Los Angeles County sheriff’s captain is expected to face questioning Friday by a defense attorney in the federal corruption retrial of former Sheriff Lee Baca.

As the trial’s second week ends, former Captain Tom Carey will return to the witness stand to answer questions regarding his alleged knowledge of Baca’s involvement in a conspiracy to hide an inmate-turned-informant who was working for the FBI to expose alleged brutality against detainees in a county jail.

Carey is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty two years ago to a felony count of making false statements. Carey admitted to lying during his testimony at the 2014 trial of a sheriff’s deputy who faced obstruction charges.

Prosecutors hope to use Carey’s testimony to show that Baca was at the top of a complex scheme to keep Men’s Central Jail inmate Anthony Brown from giving evidence to a federal grand jury.

Baca, 74, is being tried in downtown Los Angeles on counts of obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and making false statements to the FBI. The retired lawman faced trial in December on the first two counts and prosecutors planned a second trial on the lying count to take place later. But a mistrial was declared after jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquitting the former sheriff.

U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson agreed to combine all three counts in the retrial, which began last week.

The charges partly stem from a 2011 incident in which two sheriff’s investigators confronted an FBI agent involved in the jail probe in the driveway leading into her apartment and falsely told her they were in the process of obtaining a warrant for her arrest. Baca is accused of having advance knowledge of the illegal attempt to intimidate the agent.

Carey testified on Thursday that he heard Baca give advice to deputies before they confronted the agent. Baca claims he had no advance knowledge of the plan. The defense says it was really Baca’s second-in-command, Paul Tanaka, who ran the conspiracy. Attorney Nathan Hochman said his client was a victim of the now-imprisoned ex-undersheriff and his hidden agenda to retaliate against the FBI.

Trying to block the FBI “was not on Sheriff Baca’s agenda,” the defense attorney told the jury in his opening statement. He added that his client had a longstanding policy of being “open and direct” with the FBI, whom he considered to be “brothers in arms.”

Carey and eight other former deputies were convicted in the case.

Baca’s second trial will differ from the first as a result of several pretrial rulings by the judge. Anderson barred Hochman from putting on evidence of “prior good works” related to Baca’s more than 15 years as leader of the sheriff’s department, ruling that such evidence does not directly pertain to the charges for which he is being tried.

The judge also ruled that jurors will not be allowed to hear medical testimony that Baca has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for years, calling such proposed testimony a “waste of time.” Baca’s attorneys contend the ex-sheriff is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and suffered some cognitive impairment as long as six years ago.

—City News Service

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